CALGARY — Both Romby Bryant and Arjei Franklin look back on Sept. 20 as one of the best days of the Canadian Football League season.
On that day, the Calgary Stampeders acquired the pair of receivers from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in exchange for Odell Willis, Jabari Arthur, Titus Ryan and a pair of draft picks.
Instead of missing the playoffs with the Blue Bombers, Bryant and Franklin will suit up for the Stamps on Sunday at McMahon Stadium in the West Division semifinal against the Edmonton Eskimos.
“I’m happy about that to get an extra cheque at least,” said Bryant, who caught 27 passes for 548 yards in five games with Calgary, including a 211-yard performance in a 30-8 win at home over the Eskimos on Oct. 23. “I’m proud about it.”
While he hasn’t been used as much as Bryant, Franklin was pleased to get traded from Winnipeg and to a contending team.
“We realize how fortunate we are, myself and Romby, to be in the playoffs and playing for a Grey Cup,” said Franklin, who’s only been called upon to catch five passes for 40 yards during his time with the Stamps. “It’s been somewhat quiet, but I feel like I’ve done what’s asked of me and I have a role to play on this team. When they need me to make a big play, I’ll be there to make it.”
After Ryan Thelwell joined fellow receiver Ken-Yon Rambo on the sideline with a season-ending injury, Calgary coach and general manager John Hufnagel needed to find some capable replacements.
“I think it was a good trade for both football teams,” Hufnagel said. “When you lose arguably your best receiver (Rambo) and arguably your best Canadian receiver (Thelwell), there was a hole. Our guys are doing a good job of filling in the gaps.
“Romby has had more opportunities and he has not disappointed us. Arjei has had opportunities to make plays and he’s made them. We just haven’t used him as much as Romby.”
Quarterback Henry Burris said that the additions of Bryant and Franklin have given him more weapons at his disposal to keep opposing defences off balance.
“Bringing in Romby and Arjei quickly gave us that credibility on offence that we needed because they both bring so many dimensions to the offence that we were missing at the time,” Burris said. “Both Romby and Arjei can stretch the field, but they’re guys who understand the game, can read defences and make things happen on the fly.”
Fellow receiver Nik Lewis was pleased to see his new teammates pick up the offence so quickly.
“You see talented receivers come in all the time that can’t break this lineup,” Lewis said. “Both of them came in here and became starters, so that shows how good they are.”
Having played alongside Bryant for the past two seasons, Franklin wouldn’t be surprised to see his six-foot-one, 191-pound teammate have another impressive outing against the Eskimos on Sunday.
“He’s a good guy and a passionate competitor,” Franklin said. “He wants to be the best on the field at all times and you need guys like that who aren’t okay with being second best. That’s Romby for sure.”
Bryant gave credit to Calgary’s established receiving corps of Lewis, Jeremaine Copeland and Brett Ralph for opening up room for him to make big plays downfield.
“I guess they were trying to double cover Cope and Nik and that left me one-on-one a lot of times,” said Bryant of his big receiving game against the Esks.
“That opens up somebody. They can’t guard all of us.”
After being the go-to guy last month against Edmonton, Bryant said he realizes the Eskimo defence will likely try to work harder to shut him down.
“Just because I had 211 against them in the first game, doesn’t mean I’m going to get it again,” said Bryant, who’s still confident of his abilities to make big plays. “I want to get more.”